Way To Blow Me Away! Pretty Dresses, Full Skirts and Sensible Dressing

I have my habits.  They’re comfy and I like them.   I like to write a blog post in the evening, after dinner, after the kitchen is cleaned and the little girl is in bed.  I prefer to read comments over breakfast.  It’s such a delight, one of my favorite times in the day.  I often laugh uproariously, and who doesn’t like to start their day that way?  Thank you for that.

Your responses to “In Defense of the Full Skirt” were so varied and strong and positive, I wanted to do a quick recap:

Sarah from Stitching and Needling said- “I don’t wear pants. The only pair I own are solely for wearing to the beach. There is nothing I cannot do in a skirt – including crossing the road on a windy day while keeping hold of a seven year old and a toddler, AND keeping my skirt down. Quite honestly, I find slimmer skirts more difficult – you can’t take huge steps, or sit on the floor cross-legged to play with a toddler, you can’t hold your harvested vegies in a fold while not flashing the world, or hide an embarrassed child who is desperate for the loo and can’t hold it until the bus comes, you can’t bend over without at least the tiniest bit of worry about either splitting or pantylines, and you definitely can’t twirl.

I don’t know that I could add anything to that list… So, our big skirts are the “Swiss Army Knife” of garments- multi-purpose indeed.

LinB chimed in about the comfort of a full skirt:

“Yep. Full skirts allow a much wider range of motion than slim skirts. You can take longer strides in them. You can sit and squat and skip and run in them without splitting seams. Skirts can be full at the bottom and more fitted at the top, as in Folkwear’s 1890s Walking Skirt pattern (very figure-flattering), and thus use less fabric than you’d think.”

As the mother of a short person, I hear that.  Full skirts are a mommy’s best friend.  Hands down.

Emilee came out of the woodwork to say:

“…seriously, that is one of the only styles that actually looks good on ANY body type (just browse through the sew along photos in Caseys Elegant musing blog) . So feminine and lovely.”

I would love a link- is it a gallery?  I dug around for a little while and couldn’t find it.  I think a slight figure needs to be careful around full skirts- I have seen small frames drown in too many meters of fabric, but it’s easily remedied by making a less-full skirt.

(I don’t know what that overskirty thing is, but I would love to try it out..)

Leimomi brought up a point about circle skirts which hadn’t occurred to me- less waste.  Sure, you have a bigger skirt, but you throw out less fabric.  My mind keeps drifting off at odd times to figure out if I could draft a zero-waste dress with a circle skirt.  Thanks, Leimomi.  Take that, “wantonness.”

To be fair, I think maybe in this context “wanton” means “willful/ purposeful?”  Like “wanton excesses.”  I do like to give the benefit of the doubt when possible, though it was that word that raised my hackles to begin with.

Leimomi’s a very serious and important university lecturer, and she corrected the New Look story.  I’m inclined to believe her:

“The New Look dresses were pretty accepted in Paris – wearing new styles, however outrageous, was seen as patriotic because it supported the French fashion industry as it tried to recover from the war. The notable riots/attacks happened in the UK and America. “

From Kat H:

“I heart full skirts! I adore wearing them – they’re fun, they swish and you can twirl and they just feel feminine and also quite freeing at the same time. Sure, they take more fabric to make, but I figure since they’re not “in fashion” at the moment, they therefore won’t go “out of fashion” and be discarded for whatever’s the next “in thing”. (Bah, disposable fashion. Don’t get me started.)”

thetroubleis made me snort into my coffee:

What a ridiculous article. If only he could see what I’m capable of doing in Victorian wear, including a full skirt. I don’t know how he thinks working class women got by in the past, magic?”

Sigrid put it short and simple:

“I’m guessing that if this guy had ever had some serious hips and worn a pencil skirt with heels he might have different take on the difficulty of wearing a full skirt.”

I find it absolutely fascinating that so many of us find wearing full skirts “freeing,” especially given the cultural baggage tied up in 1950’s housewifery.

So these supposedly frivolous, simple garments are arguably less wasteful of fabric, and allow a free range of motion as well as a high degree of comfort.  I find them pretty easy to make, too.  The experts (real women with normal lives who actually wear these styles) have spoken!  I really enjoy my morning comments perusal, thank you to everyone who takes the time to drop me a line.

Speaking of, do let me know which is your favorite dress in this post… All this talk of big skirts has me itching to cut up another duvet cover!

Oh boy, do we have some lobster drawings to show you!  And I finished my WW2 era Advance sun jacket, and and and and if I have to sell my fingertips to Satan to figure out how to do it the t-shirt pattern I made you will be electronic next week!  (Though I don’t actually foresee the necessity of a Faustian bargain… :) )


  1. I’m torn between the Vogue at the top of your post — that square neckline! — and the Simplicity ?387, in which the gals are wearing bonnets. The portrait collar is lovely, and would be wearable by those of us with short necks. I like the way the upper pleats/darts fall from the curve of the neck on that pattern. Thanks for the mention in your column! I feel I have had a brush with greatness. (Another good thing about the Folkwear pattern is that the fly placket at center back is so deep, the only fastener needed is one for the waistband.)

    • I like to spread around good info– like that pattern. It looks great! If I didn’t have a squidjillion patterns I’d snap it up. Thanks for the tip!

      I really, really like 2927- I think it would be aaaaaamazing made up in men’s suiting wool… I’m more likely to make the square neckline one… Buttons and all…

  2. I didn’t get a chance to reply on the other post – been busy busy the last couple of days. For many, MANY years I never wore skirts shorter than my ankles. The longer and swooshier they were, the better. It was the old “Victorian Goth” part of me, I guess. These days – I’ll wear skirts shorter…around just below my knee length – and while I do love a good pencil skirt, I absolutely adore full skirts. Like everyone else – I find them exceptionally freeing. There is NOTHING I can’t do wearing a full (and ankle length!) skirt.

    As for waste. I apologize if it was already mentioned and I missed it – but wouldn’t a full skirt be fantastic for re-purposing into other garments once it ceases being worn, for whatever reason? I can easy see making a blouse? An apron? Clothing for a little one? Gosh – I bet there’s probably even enough fabric to make a slim-line skirt and blouse (or a sheath dress). I actually have a number full-ish skirts that I no longer wear (department store purchased, eeek!*) that I have put aside for turning into dresses for Lily, and at least one of them into a blouse for myself, due to the lovely lace detail. Also – say you gain some weight? Unpick the waistband, redo the gathers & pleats, sew a new waist band and voila! With all that said, I fully believe full skirts are far more longer wearing and less wasteful!

    • Yes, you’re right about re-purposing… Though I only started wearing big dresses a few years ago, and with mending and careful laundering they’re all still with me…

      I remember reading something on a blog aaaaaaaaages ago about 50’s dresses which looked at what was going on with women in the 50’s- the baby boomer generation was being born… These clothes are great for transitioning figures as you point out.. I remember a commentator on that post saying they love the agressively feminine vibe of the whole decade- dresses that say- “I’m a breeder, what?” ;)

  3. You weren’t the only one amused by all the comments (a subscription to them kept me happy throughout the day).
    I’m in love with the Simplicity with the overskirt – though with the slim cut of the dress, it looks more formal. I might just have to see if I have that one, as I’m dreaming of it in a deep color with a sheer organza overskirt for a holiday outfit. Sort of a dressy version of the ‘hostess apron’ look; an image that makes me smile when I think of someone changing their apron when the company arrives.

    • Oooooh! That sounds lovely and hadn’t occurred to me. If only I had hostess duties to attend! Maybe a deep ruby colored dress… Very very pretty.

  4. All of these make me want to sew… the last one is my fav but a quick search didn’t find anything online in my size…

    I guess I’ll just have to sew out of my pattern stash then… like I don’t have 50 trillion full skirt patterns in there. <– laziest seamstress ever.

    Thanks for bringing full skirts the attention they deserve… now if only I could find some lightly used duvets.

    • I just love the illustration on the last one. She seems to capture that breezy femme-y freedom we love so much.. ;)

      I go to church op-shops… It seems like here at least, old people will their household goods to the church. The church sells them. I can’t believe how many good linens I find for next to nothing. Sometimes I feel guilty. I do open out sheets and make sure they don’t have worn spots, stains, etc.

      All this talk of dresses from sheets reminds me I actually have 2 duvet cover UFOs lying around…. One’s nearly finished, I should get on that before I start anything else.

  5. The frugal layout of full circle skirts is something that goes back all the way to Medieval times. I wish that I could find online the pages in Dorothy Hartley’s “Medieval Costume and Life” where she shows one way to lay out the medieval bliaut (that “princess” dress with the full circular skirt and long flowing sleeves) The body of the dress is made from a straight length of fabric, and the part that makes the circular skirt of the gown, the pieces cut away to turn it into a circle are what are used for the long flowing sleeves. Our medieval ancestors were very careful about not wasting fabric, after all, they were very familiar with how much work went into preparing and weaving the cloth!

    • I think modern efforts at zero-waste design would greatly benefit from an in-depth look at medieval and traditional folk wear… If only there were more hours in the day and I could focus on that for a while! :)

      It’s like a puzzle, I suppose… When I was a kid we used to play with tangrams, kind of the same thing.. Right?

  6. There’s something about the things that Sarah says that makes me a little teary. The last line ‘ and you definitely can’t twirl’ says so very much. What a surprisingly thought provoking post this is. Thank you.

    • Thank you! I do love Casey’s look, I find if I watch her too much I end up just copying everything she does because she’s just so delightful. :)

  7. Yay! Stick it to the stuffy dude. :) (I would be more articulate, but I cleaned today and now I’ve got my usual post-cleaning illness – stupid allergies to dust)

  8. A tad belated, but ah, well. That original article sounds so annoying! (I DO hate the idea of people dictating fashion to others.)

    I’m not the world’s biggest skirt-wearer, but I’m sure not going to fault anyone else if that’s their preference. Yeesh. Wouldn’t it be a dull world if we all dressed the same?

  9. LOL! I certainly hope I’m not serious, and I know I’m not important (well, not in that way), but thank you just the same!

    Favourites? Well, I love the first one, because that was exactly the type of pattern I wanted for the Love at First Flight (yeah, I renamed it) dress, and couldn’t find a similar one, so had to go with something different.

    Visually I love the 3rd one, the Simplicity shirtwaist – so elegant, and those big pockets – darling! But gathered and pleated skirts are better on me than circle, so my heart is with the pink McCalls dresses. Such lovely detailing.

  10. Even though I’ve never worn a full-skirted dress (it’s never occurred to me!!) I do love them. I never thought of all the useful points before. As for the patterns you showed, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the last one. It would be lovely for summer here in Ottawa, Canada. Now, to see if that pattern is available!

  11. I am SO glad I ran across your replies to the Worn Through article in my reader before I ran across the Worn Through article itself. It made me SO RAGEFUL, but it was reassuring knowing that I had your nice, articulate, thoughtful disagreement with the article’s nonsense to come back to. Thanks for being awesome!

  12. I actually prefer pencil skirts to full skirts. I’m always really self-conscious in full skirts and worry that the wind is blowing the wrong way or I look unflattering, etc. I walk to and from work in pencil skirts, and so far no wardrobe malfunctions yet. :) But then again I am not a mom, and maybe I need to branch out of my comfort zone and make some full skirts.

    • I like wearing pencil skirts, the silhouette is killer on my lower half… But they do restrict movement… Not so much for walking, or standing, or some light sitting, but anything else and I feel the seams will split… ;)

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